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Page added on June 4, 2011

Champa Moosa “an environmental criminal”, claims EPA, while police interrogate authority’s former Director General

Champa Moosa “an environmental criminal”, claims EPA, while police interrogate authority’s former Director General thumbnail

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has labelled local business tycoon Mohamed ‘Champa’ Moosa an “environmental criminal” for irreversibly damaging the island of Thun’bafushi and the marine ecosystem of Thun’bafalhu.

The EPA on Thursday fined Moosa the maximum penalty of Rf100 million (US$6.5 million) for conducting dredging and reclamation works in the area without an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

Director-General of the EPA Mohamed Zuhair has reportedly resigned over the matter. Furthermore, Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam confirmed to Minivan News that Zuhair had been taken in for questioning regarding an undisclosed investigation. Zuhair was not responding at time of press.

Director of the EPA Ibrahim Naeem told Minivan News the area had been irreversibly damaged and a large reef habitat destroyed.

Sharks left in a foot of tepid water

“This was originally a reef ecosystem with a small sand bank in the middle, but he has been dredging the island without any clearance and the changes are now irreversible,” Naeem said.

After three surveys of the area, the EPA had assessed the damage as amounting to Rf2,230,293,566 (US$144.6 million), not including the impact of sedimentation from the dredging which can smother coral kilometres from the site.

A foreign consultant who was involved in surveying the island told Minivan News that the area “seems to have been used as a dumping ground.”

“There were what looked like hundreds of used car batteries, waste metals and oil drums leeching into the marine environment,” the consultant said.

“We were looking at the effect of the dredging on sedimentation, and there were no water quality tests done. But you can just imagine what it would have been like with all the batteries and waste metals.”

Images of the island obtained by Minivan News showed discarded piles of rubbish and batteries, old earthmoving machinery rusting in the sun, and half a dozen reef sharks in a tank containing a foot of tepid water.

While the unauthorised reclamation works are several years old and have been a subject of EPA concern for some time, Naeem explained that the procedure and mechanism for calculating and issuing fines was only established in February this year.

The Environmental Protection Act already states the requirement for an EIA assessment and the illegality of conducting works without acquiring one, but does not outline how this should be penalised. Naeem noted that the EPA had lost court battles on the specifics prior to the introduction of the new framework in February.

“We now calculate environmental damage caused by [unauthorised] dredging at Rf65,000 (US$4200) per square metre,” Naeem said, “but Rf100,000 million is the maximum fine.”

Fines were open to appeal and negotiation, Naeem said, suggesting that “this is likely to happen in this case.”

Piles of rubble and old machinery

Moosa could also request the EPA resurvey the damaged area, Naeem  said, although he noted that the EPA had already surveyed the area three times, most recently in March.

Ali Rilwan of Environmental NGO Bluepeace expressed concern that the EPA’s previous issuing of fines for environmental damage was sporadic, and those that were issued were often unpaid “or the day afterwards, pardon is given.”

The EPA’s lack of independence from the executive also “raised doubts” as to whether fines were politically motivated – Moosa’s business interests include private broadcaster DhiTV, which the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has previously criticised for being heavily aligned to the opposition.

“The Environmental Act does not conflict with the Constitution, but the EPA should be an independent body like the Human Rights Commission,” Rilwan said.

“It should be an independent agency autonomous from the government staffed by academic professionals, rather than civil servants and ministers. Because of the current setup, we do have doubts [over its independence].”

A building on the island used for storage

Naeem responded that while he did not know if there was a political element to the decision to fine Moosa a week before the government was seeking to push through major economic reforms in parliament, “what we do know is that Champa has definitely done this without a license or any form of clearance.”

“I don’t know if there is a political element – but he has committed a crime, and we have to take our responsibility towards the environment seriously,” he said.

Minivan News contacted Champa Moosa for comment but he had not responded at time of press.

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33 Comments on "Champa Moosa “an environmental criminal”, claims EPA, while police interrogate authority’s former Director General"

  1. Kalhoufummi on Sat, 4th Jun 2011 8:03 PM 

    What the hell is going on in Paradise!!?

  2. Nutty on Sat, 4th Jun 2011 8:08 PM 

    well, the EPA should fine the government for damaging Gulhi falhu, as it is on the EPA list of conservation areas…..every aspect of this country is politicised and corrupt. dhen mihaaru Zuhairu gengos thahugeegu kuranvee……” u are either with us or against us” I am disappointed in Hussein naeem, he should have been more professional, now he just appears to be a stooge of the government…..this whole putting a sum on environmental damage is as arbitrary and dubious as it gets

  3. Basis on Sat, 4th Jun 2011 8:17 PM 

    what about Gdh. Dhigulaambadhoo case? isnt this “environmentally criminal”…double standards ge appa!

  4. Salim Waheed on Sat, 4th Jun 2011 8:24 PM 

    There is no land reclamation in Paradise Resort and Spa. Instead it is merely a response to the costal erosion that is taking place on that island as well as across this country.

    Fines are all well and good. But warning from the EPA need to be issued as well. We know there are many islands across this country with the same environmental damage which is not being investigated. Singling out this resort first and only this resort seems political.

  5. Jinni on Sat, 4th Jun 2011 9:53 PM 

    This activities by Champa is short sighted. Champa you will answer to your grandchildren one day on your destroy of our paradise.

  6. tsk tsk on Sat, 4th Jun 2011 10:31 PM 

    I would also like to bring to the attention of those who harp on about the rule of law and good governance that it is a basic and fundamental aspect of both that individuals must be punished as sanctioned by law and such laws should not have retrospective effect.

    Anecdotally speaking, environmental regulations have not been enforced in this country since time immemorial and claiming a spontaneous and unexpected interest in the environment is as unbelievable as it gets.

    Secondly, based on what I just said, we all must accept that business tycoon or streetside beggar, we all will act according to our expectations and the established status quo.

    If the State were to publish a regulation sanctioning a retrospective fine of 100 trillion dollars for all properties leased out for residential purposes if such properties do not provide a fire escape, then singles out one opposition-leaning businessman for the enforcement of that regulation, nobody in the whole world would believe there was no political motivation behind such a move.

  7. rab on Sat, 4th Jun 2011 10:31 PM 

    @ nutty : its not Hussain Naeem.. its IBRAHIM Naeem…

    has anyone done any tests on near the Thilafushi? isnt the state continuously polluting that area, constantly committing that irreversible environmental crime..

    where was EPA when this Champa guy was doing all this.. no monitoring to see if someone who got some permit was actually adhering to it? Does EPA only see stuff after all irreversible damage is done?

    what utter nonsense!

  8. rajab rajab eid on Sat, 4th Jun 2011 11:02 PM 

    this is one big bloody joke. Ok Champa is an environmental criminal. But there are environmental crimes being committed by Govt agencies on a massive scales. all the dredging that is happening all over the place, all the reclamation work that took place, and countless nos of things. And right now as we speak huge amounts of sand is being mined from beaches and shallows throughout maldives. Enormous numbers of trees are being felled and/or uprooted and taken away on an industrial scale by developers of resorts from islands such as laamu gan. Nobody ..no environmental protection agencies gives a flying F*&K. Environment is the biggest begging bowl that has ever been used in the history of mankind. We in Maldives simply dont give a rats ass about our environment. We only use environment to show to international community and to ‘size ah kandan’ companies and figures not supporting the govt of the day.

  9. ibrahim on Sat, 4th Jun 2011 11:04 PM 

    champa moosa should be jailed. a fine is not enough.

  10. Dhonfuthu on Sun, 5th Jun 2011 12:21 AM 

    So who is gonna investigate reethi rah ? Two islands reclaimed and used in the lagoon of Conrad and veligandu. ?

  11. n on Sun, 5th Jun 2011 2:57 AM 

    EPA should also take any action over the illegal sea cucumber projects going on in Noonu Atoll Kendhikulhudhoo (http://www.bluepeacemaldives.org/blog/biodiversity/kendhikulhudhoo-mangroves-under-threat) and Maalhendhoo (http://millzero.com/blog/?p=435) and if EPA had approved the coastal modification of Shaviyani Atoll Nalandhoo (http://www.flickr.com/photos/nios/5277968367/).

    EPA should halt the leasing of Gaafu Dhaalu Dhigulaabadhoo too. http://www.bluepeacemaldives.org/blog/biodiversity/cabinet-decides-to-lease-dhigulaabadhoo

    EPA should also take action over 3A company for destroying the beach of an island by illegally mining sand and taking it on a barge for a resort they are developing. http://haveeru.com.mv/?page=details&id=111568

  12. Nars on Sun, 5th Jun 2011 8:36 AM 

    Ibrahim Naeem is a joke..hes probably eyeing Zuhair’s job now…Technical people like Mr.Naeem is being used by this government to further thier destructive agenda and as theier mouth piece…The sad thing is he probably doesnt know it and is feeling all big man right now…The EPA is being used as a government tool to silence the opposition , in this case to silence dhitv and dhifm…

  13. Nars on Sun, 5th Jun 2011 8:40 AM 

    Almost forgot…what about the Hudhufushi lease that was recently renewed…they owed government 85 million dollars and hushufushi is a very important ecological site home to endangrered sharks and matay rays….so where was mr.naeem when the contract was renewed?..what about the responsibility and EPA?..

  14. Double Standards on Sun, 5th Jun 2011 9:10 AM 

    Shark pond? Sounds like an evil genius from a bond movie. That being said, government should really look into Thilafushi situation as well.

  15. Waheedh on Sun, 5th Jun 2011 10:08 AM 

    Champ Afeef thinks whole Maldives is his oyster. He can do what ever he wants. Today he sacked 26 Maldivians from Conrad Resort. What will happen to their families, Ramazan season is only 1 month away. You can’t do anything with these Champa’s . Down with champa

  16. adhurey on Sun, 5th Jun 2011 10:14 AM 

    Is this the first such penalty in Maldives. During Maumoons period villivaru resort (Athama Ibrahim Didi ) was penalised for 100 Million rufiyaa. Was it too a politically motivated charge.

  17. peasant on Sun, 5th Jun 2011 10:16 AM 

    Tu quoque.

    In my defence, he did it too.

  18. Dhonfuthu on Sun, 5th Jun 2011 10:20 AM 

    i have photographic proof that a huge sand bank in south ari atoll being moved (by boat) to machchafushi resort then owned by mayor of male’ city adam manik (now he has sold the island) but i dont have a newspaper like this one to publish them on. i have shared photographic evidence of what damage is done to resort reefs by illegal sea cucumber fishermen with almost every concerned authority in the maldives but no action has been taken. i can get you photos of children playing next to discarded piles of rubbish including batteries from any island in the maldives. just ask yourself how many inhabited islands have proper waste disposal centers? these photographs and what uchchu has done to this island is nothing compared to what the government is doing in the inhabited islands in the name of development. behind everything that happens in maldives, there is politics.

  19. Mohamed luthfy on Sun, 5th Jun 2011 10:30 AM 

    A criminal should not complain about other criminals who are not caught. If he broke any law he must be brought to Justice. When champa runs a media it doesn’t give him immunity to all the crimes. This man seems to believe with money he can buy anything. We should stop him bribing all the officials.

  20. Ilham on Sun, 5th Jun 2011 10:50 AM 

    Champa moosa should be jailed – in a foot of shark infested tepid water. the dirty, greedy criminal.

  21. The Balrog on Sun, 5th Jun 2011 1:26 PM 

    I don’t think 6.5 million dollars is too much for a business tycoon such as Champa. They probably earn more than that in a week running resorts.

  22. Hussain Fareedh Didi on Sun, 5th Jun 2011 2:36 PM 

    Oh My Dear Lord!
    I agree that irreversible damage has been done in more than 800 sites across this Country.
    Development is brought by harming the Environment of course! but the question raised by EPA here is the SCALE OF DAMAGE.(its the ratio of people benefited out of the project per sq km damaged)So in the State funded and business invested Developmental Projects, for example Thilafushi and Gulhifalhu Project, the scale of damage is reached on dividing the $ value of the area (sq km) damaged BY the Number of People to be benefited after the project. That in Thunbafalhu case will be brought according to this article:

    (US$6.5 million)/1person(Champa)= US$6.5 Million AGAIN.
    I went and had a look at that islands State in 2006. I would like to justify Naeem’s Story as well as this Article.

    This Man has been Holding this Island for nothing but for his own luxury and personal Research. and it cannot be Quoted as DEVELOPMENT.

    on the Other hand Gulhifalhu, for an Instance, lets just say the cost of damage would be 4 times the damage caused in Thunbafalhu, say US$26 million.

    Government estimates more than 80,000 people will find 1.Essential, 2.Economical, 3.Social and 4.Luxurious Benefits from gulhifalhu Project. So actually it gives benefits for 320,000 people.

    so lets do a simple math people!

    US$26 Million/320,000 = US$81.25
    Pretty far for a million Right!

    The Conclusion is:
    YES CHAMPA IS AN ENVIRONMENTAL CRIMINAL and Further Legal steps should be taken against him.

    The Island should be taken back to the State and Rent as a picnic Island and 70% money should be distributed to Environmental Associations/clubs

    His Assets on that Island should be Hold back to the State and Equally distributed to the Poor !

    Thanks

  23. shameem on Sun, 5th Jun 2011 3:27 PM 

    @Hussein
    you’re absolutely right. this Champaa assets should be seized and distributed to the poor and he should be jailed for life.

  24. Divert on Sun, 5th Jun 2011 3:37 PM 

    Environmental damage. Maldivians have lost their natural vegetation, their crops and smothered their land with foreign crops which required foreign fertilizers with chemicals to work the ground and pesticides to fight the pests. Now the natural eco-system has been thrown out of its balance and farmers are at a loss how to deal with the new crops. Who mandated this? We call it the demand driven (tourism driven) crops? No, no one wants to think about it and we keep on pushing our farmers to produce something that does not naturally grown here.

  25. Nars on Sun, 5th Jun 2011 3:59 PM 

    @ Hussan Fareedh..now i would like you to explain that to the fishes and other marine life whose habitat is being destroyed in thilafushi and gulheefalhu…so according to you its alright for the government,the MDP and its cronies like Reecko moosa with a 21 million dollars project destroying natural marine environment…but its illegal for anyone else…Your hypocrisy is a just amazing..plus to this date no one is living is gulheefalhu or thilafushi so you cant divide it by 320,000

  26. Basis on Sun, 5th Jun 2011 7:09 PM 

    hussein fareedh, those 80,000 people are annis buddies in UK, looking for a second home

  27. Shaah on Sun, 5th Jun 2011 8:03 PM 

    @ Nars: Ha ha Good one! I wonder where Hussain Fareedh is pulling out his numbers… Hypocracy at its best.

  28. Rose on Sun, 5th Jun 2011 8:20 PM 

    @ Hassan Fareedh Didi…. The solution to your problem is simple: go move to a communist country where everyone is equal and the wealth from the rich is distributed equally and beautifully to the poor!

    BTW great formula! I’m sure the environment will come blooming back if we use it to develop the Maldives.

  29. J on Sun, 5th Jun 2011 10:01 PM 

    The EPA is lazy and useless. Furthermore, everyone in the Maldives seem to be some sort of Environmental Criminal.

  30. Religious Crimes on Mon, 6th Jun 2011 10:41 AM 

    After having a look at the photo in the article which looks like it is some sort of temple, I beleive its the Islamic Ministry and not only EPA who should be after Champa

  31. Mikaloa-O on Mon, 6th Jun 2011 11:43 AM 

    This place said to be used for storage, does look like a Hindu Temple!

    Coincidental perhaps!?

    Everyone perhaps can be, or may be an environmental criminals one way or another!

    But surprisingly this is way beyond imagination!

  32. Dhonfuthu on Mon, 6th Jun 2011 1:03 PM 

    You can talk about this family and their crimes for all eternity. They are clever and smart. Basically they are untouchable !!! I see everyday how they treat their employees . There isn’t event a sight sence of humanity for the employees who burn their a***s throught the year to keep them rich and their buisness running. This is very sad . For me the worse thing is I have to watch and wait .

    It’s high time the government needs to investigate them and bring this Maldivian mafia to justice .

  33. ma on Mon, 6th Jun 2011 5:10 PM 

    Religous Crimes, its a temple and Pink! worse crime, its a temple for gay people!


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